In 9 years of Bella Vita Italia, this is probably one of the most asked questions I get: “Should we do the Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast? And every time, it is actually difficult to answer. Of course, having the Cinque Terre in my background makes me slightly biased, but you have to consider the traveler in this case. Both are beautiful, can be “characteristic”, have amazing views, and both take a little bit of understanding to get to and from!
Much depends on one’s itinerary as well as one’s travel expectations. Logistically speaking, the Cinque Terre is much easier to get to if you are coming from let’s say Florence (2 hours), Milan (2.5 hours) or Emilia-Romana (2-3 hours) whereas the Amalfi Coast is certainly much easier from Rome (3 hours), Naples (1 hour) and/or Umbria (3-4 hours). But for “travel style”, I am going to be perfectly honest here. If you are looking for a bit of beach resort glamour, sophistication and a bit of pampering, then head south (to the Amalfi Coast). If you want to experience a bit more of “rugged” and active Italy (in several ways), head north (to the Cinque Terre).
Highlights and info for each:
Le Cinque Terre has some of the most breath-taking and strenuous hiking in Italy. While many (ok most) visitors choose to hike the Sentiero Azzuro, the trail between all 5 villages, there are another 20 worth trekking and with less people and that are FREE (versus €6 for the day). Also, keep in mind that Via dell’Amore and the stretch between Manarola and Corniglia are both closed indefinitely, so yet another reason to try on of the “off the beaten track” paths (personal favorites include Monterosso to Levanto over Punta Mesco and between Volastra above Manarola to Corniglia which takes you through some of my most glorious vineyards in the area). The Amalfi Coast also has some wonderful hiking trails, the most famous (and really worth doing!) is “The Path of Gods”, but certainly not at the level of popularity (or draw) that the Cinque Terre has experienced. If you really want the bird’s eye view of the Amalfi Coast, we suggest hiring a driver for the day or taking the local SITA bus along the gravity-defying coastal road, which is an adventure in itself.
It is probably fair to see there is more “sights-seeing” from the Amalfi Coast, but you might be surprised at just what you can do and see from the Cinque Terre due the convenience of it being on a main train line. From the Amalfi Coast you have easy day trips to Capri, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum, Vietri sul Mare and Naples. From the Cinque Terre, you have easy day trips to Genova (underrated and fascinating), Portofino, Camogli, Pisa and Portovenere, not too shabby if you ask me.
The weather: if you plan on visiting either during the “shoulder season” (April or October), chances are you will have better weather down south. Liguria, the region where you find the Cinque Terre, can be very iffy these two months. In fact, I have nicknamed them the “50/50” months: one day might be gloriously sunny and warm, the next day you are stuck in torrential downpours and gusty winds. This kind of unpredictable weather is much less common the more south you go, and therefore, you most likely will be able to sun-bathing and swim in the sea by April and well into October. May and September are probably the best months to visit either, whereas in both you will find hot as hades weather in July and August, with a bit more humidity in the north.
Accommodations: You will find a plethora of 4 and 5-star hotels/resorts and therefore no lack of services or amenities on the Amalfi Coast. There are only two 4-star hotels in the Cinque Terre, of which only one I could even recommend and that with some disclaimers. The Cinque Terre is full of B&B’s or small “locande” at slightly lesser prices than that of the Amalfi Coast. There are also several charming seaside villages just outside of the Cinque Terre which offer a bit more space and options within a very short train or boat to consider as well (i.e. – Levanto, Sestri Levante, Lerici, Portovenere).
BOTH have fantastic vineyards and wineries to visit.
BOTH have gorgeous, clean water to swim in and little coves to sun-bathe in.
BOTH have excellent to mediocre restaurants, serving what is considered local cuisines, of which tend to be fairly similar (note: opt for pizza on the Amalfi Coast and focaccia in the Cinque Terre!).
BOTH are very popular and can be excruciatingly crowded in the high season. Expect to hear just as much english as italian in either place.
BOTH can no longer boast to being “authentic, non-touristy”, real Italy destinations, although I would give the Cinque Terre a slight edge over the Amalfi Coast in terms of “quaintness”.
So with all this said, I go back to my earlier comment. They both offer a fun, beautiful and interesting travel experiences, just depends on what you are looking for and your style of travel. And in either case, we would be thrilled to plan your trip there!Posted by meganmccaffrey | 3 comments